How to remove squirrels from your attic
While squirrels may not seem like a major pest, they can still cause problems. The most obvious issue is raiding bird feeders, but they can also get into garbage, spread diseases to pets, and build nests in attics. Keeping them away from your home so they don’t get comfortable is as easy as using the right repellents, right? Well, yes, as long as those repellents actually work.
There are over 10 species of squirrel in the USA, all beautiful and valuable parts of our ecosystem and natural environment. Unfortunately, peaceful coexistence between squirrels and people is not always a viable option, and squirrels can be a nuisance. They can cause widespread damage to your property, at best defecating on surfaces and causing a horrendous smell, and at worst chewing on wires and causing electrical fires.
Squirrels are extremely efficient, often giving birth to 10 babies (in two separate litters) every year. Houses, and specifically attics, are prime property for opportunistic squirrels seeking to make their nest in a place that is warm, comfortable, and sheltered.
If left untreated, a squirrel infestation can end up being a constant battle, so it is best to deal with the creatures sooner rather than later, in as humane a way as possible. Here are some tips on how to remove squirrels from your attic:
Pre-planning is key!
To effectively deal with squirrels, it is important to know a little about them and their behaviour. You are most likely to experience a squirrel infestation during either late winter or late summer, the breeding season for the creatures. This is the time when squirrels begin the hunt to find a suitable place to expand their family, often an attic. Squirrels are not nocturnal animals, unlike many other pests, and so will first access your property during the day. If you live in an area known for squirrel
infestations, squirrel-proofing your house before these two seasons is a must. Thoroughly inspect your attic, taking note of all possible entrances and exits. If possible, check the ceiling as well. Note that squirrels are small and extremely agile creatures, meaning they will be able to access your property through holes that do not look large enough to be a bother. Block all of these entrances if possible, leaving only the ones entirely necessary for entering the attic. For these, make sure the entrances are closed at all times, and potentially install a non-lethal trap to stop rogues.
Squirrels access your property for want of warmth, a place to sleep, and things to chew. Removing these incentives makes squirrels less likely to want to enter your attic. Sadly, attics are usually primarily made of wood, the favourite thing to chew for a squirrel. Squirrels’ teeth by evolution never stop growing, so as long as we have squirrels, we will have chewing. As you can imagine, it is easier said than done to remove wood from an attic. What can be done, however, is to cover exposed wood to reduce the incentive. Furthermore, wood can be covered by a non-lethal wax or another substance, so as to stop squirrels from chewing. After all, what squirrel would want to wrap its chops around foul-tasting wood? Another mainstay of the squirrel’s chewing diet is electrical cables. This can be especially damaging, as disruption of electrical cables can lead to electrical fires. If you have cables exposed in your attic, consider weighing them down with cable ties and other such equipment, to ensure that squirrels do not see your cables as a target.
Many squirrel dens are made upon attic insulation, which has the benefit of being both soft and warm. Therefore, if you remove this insulation, you will remove the primary incentive for squirrels to infest your attic. Again, this is easier said than done, as insulation is present for a reason, to keep your house warm. However, many attics have leftover insulation just lying around, which can be easily covered and removed. If your roof is the right shape, there is also a reasonably simple way to make insulation less comfortable. If you have spare wooden planks or other hard materials, consider placing them on top of the insulation. That way, your house will still be properly insulated, without the comfort that insulation offers to prospective squirrels. This does not just apply to insulation: remove or cover all soft surfaces, so squirrels cannot find a suitable place to breed in your attic.
Invest in some quality disinfectant!
If you think you have a squirrel infestation in your house, it is a good idea to thoroughly clean your attic. Squirrels are known carriers of diseases such as rabies, as well as fleas that transmit all kinds of diseases. A disinfectant spray, a few sponges, and a bit of time and effort is necessary to ensure that the infestation does not cause adverse harm. Not only will this reduce the chance of infection, but it will also reduce the incentive for squirrels to return. Squirrels have a keen sense of smell and find their way to and from their territory using primarily their nose. Therefore, if you disinfect thoroughly enough, this smell will have been eradicated, stopping squirrels from finding their way back to your attic. On compassion grounds, if using this technique, make sure there are no baby squirrels unattended in the attic. If there are, consider either rehoming them yourself or seeking professional help, as will be detailed later in this article.
Sadly, like all creatures, squirrels have to do their business. Therefore, inevitably, a squirrel infestation means mounds upon mounds of feces. These pose just as much of a risk as to the squirrels themselves, not to mention emit a foul smell. Removing feces is a messy job and needs a bit of care. For the smell, consider wearing a mask, and get a clean plastic bag. Use sturdy rubber gloves to remove the feces from surfaces and place in the bag. Spray the place thoroughly afterward, and consider using steel wool to remove the remains. There are a few ways to get rid of the feces. One option is to incinerate, which will ensure that all harmful bacteria and pathogens will go up in flames. If you are a gardener and a recycler, you may find that squirrel poo has its uses as a fertilizer!
Use non-lethal traps, but CHECK LOCAL LAWS!
It is not advised to kill squirrels, not just on compassionate grounds. It is a federal offence to kill a squirrel, apart from a few exceptions, or if you have a hunter’s license. However, non-lethal traps are fair game and are an effective way to swiftly remove squirrels from your attic. Traps are one of those items where it is a good idea to avoid the very cheapest items, as you will find many just do not work, or are items that squirrels can easily escape out of. If buying online, read reviews before purchasing. If buying in-store, consider speaking to a clerk who may be able to give expert advice. Instructions on how to set or place the traps are often on the packaging, but the general principle is as follows: Place the traps in all possible entrances that have not been blocked off. This way, if a squirrel enters your property, you will catch it. Some traps may require bait. This can be usually found in the form of nuts, seeds, etc. Leave your traps, fully set, for twenty-four hours, or, if your trap has a built-in alarm until that sounds. After the time has passed, inspect the traps to see if they have caught the creature. If a squirrel has been caught, it is illegal to kill it, so either relocate it on private land with permission or arrange for wildlife control to collect it for you. Many traps can be used multiple times, but some have to be replaced with every squirrel caught. Over time, you will find that squirrels learn to avoid your attic, knowing they will face the music if they enter. It is important to take local and state laws into account just as much as federal law. Many counties and states have different laws when it comes to animal welfare, and some even ban the use of non-lethal traps. Check with your local area about the laws to ensure you are not fined.
Seek professional help
Nowadays, there are wildlife removal companies everywhere, all vying for your business. This means that you can pay professionals to do the dirty work for you for not much money at all. In fact, after investing in disinfectant, traps, etc., it is sometimes more cost-effective to buy the services of a wildlife control company to eradicate the problem in half the time. Wildlife control companies also know the ins and outs of the law, meaning they can save you a bureaucratic nightmare. With so many wildlife control companies out there, many serve specific niches. Consider the services of a wildlife control company that uses humane methods. Not only are these more compassionate, but they are also often just as cheap nowadays. These companies save you the hassle of relocation, as well, as this requires permission from a private landowner. Humane wildlife control companies have dedicated landowners, such as nature preserves, they supply to, ensuring your trapped squirrels find a new lease of life far away from your attic.